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Why you need to understand how bounce rate differs in Google Analytics 4

13th February 2023

2-minutes read

Google Analytics is essential for any business looking to understand its customer base and measure the success of its website.

One of the key metrics to track is "bounce rate”, which measures how quickly visitors leave a website after visiting.

With the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the way bounce rate is calculated has changed fundamentally so it’s important to understand these changes if you want to measure accurately the success of your website.

What was "bounce rate" in Universal Analytics?

Up until now, the old version of Google Analytics (called "Universal Analytics”), was defined as the percentage of visitors who leave your website on the same page as they arrive, without performing any other meaningful action such as clicking on a link or filling out a form.

If you have 10 visitors to your site and 4 of them leave without viewing more than a single page, you have a bounce rate of 40%.

However, with the introduction of GA4, this definition changes.

In GA4, Google define bounce rate as "the proportion of visitor sessions that were not engaged sessions”… which is all very well as long as you understand what they mean by an "engaged session”!

An "engaged session” is a visit to your website that:

  1. lasts longer than 10-seconds or
  2. includes a conversion or
  3. involves at least 2 page views

Why change the definition?

A number of modern websites are actually just single-page sites, so it’s highly likely that visitors will arrive and leave on the same page!  This gives a deceptively high measure of bounce rate with Universal Analytics.

Additionally, the new calculation for bounce rate gives a more insightful measurement of visitors disengaging with your site.

For example, if your site includes a blog, you might expect a visitor to arrive directly on a blog article page, spend some time reading it and then leave your site. This is not necessarily a bad outcome but under the old measure of bounce rate, it would get reported as a bounce and generally deemed to be a "bad thing”. A visitor who spends 5 or 10-minutes reading your article is an engaged visitor and so this shouldn’t be reported negatively.

Under GA4, Google uses bounce rate to give a more accurate representation of dissatisfaction with your site as visitors who stay for fewer than 10-seconds, without doing anything meaningful in that time, are a truer representation of disengaged people.

You cannot reliably compare your old bounce rate against your new bounce rate as you are measuring different outcomes with two quite different calculations!

Why you need to understand how bounce rate has changed

This change means that your website’s bounce rate in GA4 may be higher or lower than it was previously in Universal Analytics, depending on the type of visitors you receive and the content they view on your site.

You cannot reliably compare your old bounce rate against your new bounce rate as you are measuring different outcomes with two quite different calculations!

Under GA4, if you want to reduce your site’s bounce rate, focus on making sure that pages are sufficiently engaging to keep visitors there for more than 10-seconds. This could include adding content like video, interactive elements or more clearly defined calls-to-action.

It’s also important to accept that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing bounce rate.

The best way to find out what works for your website is to experiment with different strategies and analyse your data to see what works best.

By understanding how bounce rate differs in GA4, you will improve your chances of implementing the right approach to maximising your website’s performance.

Struggling to get the most from your Google Analytics account? Call Rubiqa today on 01332 331332

Jeremy Flight

Jeremy Flight

Technical Director

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